When Jimmy Orshal got the news, he and his mother held one another in the hospital and cried.
The diagnosis was stage four lung cancer and Orshal, 52, was given only a few months to live. His first thoughts were of his three daughters and weddings they were putting off for financial reasons. If they waited much longer, he wouldn’t be around to walk them down the aisle.
“We asked if he had one wish in the whole world, what would it be and he said to walk his three daughters down the aisle,” said daughter April. “He could have wished for anything in the world, naked girls in a mud bath, and he wished for that and we are going to make it come true.”
In less than three weeks, the family pulled together to pool money and plan a triple wedding in Crystal River for the girls, two of whom live in New Port Richey. In that time, Orshal grew weaker from chemotherapy treatments and an experimental drug regimen.
He lost weight.
He lost his hair.
He wasn’t going to lose out on the opportunity to see his girls get married.
So last Saturday, friends and family from various states and all over Florida arrived for the wedding. The lawn was dotted with mismatched lawn chairs, metal folding chairs and even a rolling computer chair, and the wedding march was played on the stereo of a white Dodge pickup.
“You want a redneck wedding, you’re gonna get a redneck wedding,” Kelly Orshal, Jimmy’s estranged wife but lifelong best friend, called out to the crowd.
Orshal will miss out on the trip to Hawaii with his daughters and grandchildren that the family has been saving for. His motorhome is getting repossessed so he can put the payments toward his expensive medications. He speaks casually of the biker funeral he plans to have.
“Most people are handling it worse than I am,” Orshal said. “I’m not scared to die. I’m just missing out on time with my kids.”
His parents, both cancer survivors, will outlive him. Orshal himself is a prostate cancer survivor but in the end, the smoking is what will take his life.
“I know what it is now and I’ve done it to myself,” Orshal said with a cigarette in hand. “If you’re a smoker, don’t.”
Orshal fought through the nausea from that morning’s injection to individually walk Kaylene, April and Sami-Jo down the makeshift aisle. In a skull-emblazoned top hat and leather biker vest, he gave their hands to their new husbands.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Sharon Gillespie, the notary and family friend who married the three couples.
Orshal watched his daughters say “I do” and kiss their husbands under the wooden arbor he built. He sobbed quietly, shielding his tears beneath the brim of his hat.
“This is cool,” Orshal said after the ceremony as he watched his daughters. “Good turnout.”